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Moby-Dick | Study Guide

Herman Melville

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Moby-Dick | Chapters 106–108 | Summary



When returning to the Pequod from the Samuel Enderby, Captain Ahab had damaged his peg leg, so now he feels it is not "entirely trustworthy." And even though he is a madman and a monomaniac, he does the most practical thing—he tells the carpenter to make him a new leg out of some of the newly procured sperm whale bones. In Chapter 107, Ishmael introduces the carpenter, describing his important repair function aboard the ship as well as some of the noncarpentry tasks he performs, like pulling teeth. In Chapter 108, the carpenter is hard at work on the new leg—and sneezing repeatedly from all the dust his work generates—when Ahab approaches. The carpenter begins to measure the leg against Ahab's body so it will be the correct length, and Ahab comments on the blacksmith who is fashioning the metal parts that will attach the leg. Ahab then tells the carpenter that he still has the sensation of the old flesh-and-blood leg before asking, impatiently, when the leg will be done. The carpenter promises it will be done in an hour.


This section centers on Captain Ahab's peg leg that was damaged in his haste to return to the Pequod. He doesn't want to meet Moby Dick in this condition, so he needs a new one in a hurry. After introducing the situation and the carpenter who will make the new leg, Ishmael's narrative voice gives way to another point of view—the third-person, drama-like format seen in Chapter 40. In this chapter, Ahab calls the blacksmith, who is busy making the hardware needed to attach Ahab's peg leg, Prometheus. In Greek mythology, Prometheus was a Titan who created the race of humans out of clay. Ahab then goes on to say the blacksmith is connected to Hell: "Prometheus ... should have been a blacksmith, and animated them with fire; for what's made in fire must properly belong to fire; and so hell's probable." This is one of many references to Hell, the devil, or demons in relation to Ahab.

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